Tuesday, January 12, 2010

On streetscaping (v) a question of style

Streetscaping usually involves the reconstruction of sidewalks and adjacent spaces with new concrete and other paving materials. Decorative lighting and other elements may be employed.

If a single style of paving and lighting is employed along the entire street a sense of cohesiveness and integration results. If overdone, this can become boring.

On very long streets, or streets where there are several distinct “zones” (such as a high rise zone, a residential zone, and a commercial zone) it might be appropriate to vary the streetscaping style from zone to zone to best achieve the desired effect.

Generally, in Dalhousie ward, which includes a wide variety of building types, ages, and qualities, a unifying result is wanted. Thus on Preston Street the same style is used from Albert to Carling. (Only some of the street is in the BIA; it obviously did not make sense to run the new streetscaping only from Spruce to Carling).

The streetscaping should also reflect how the street is used rather than arbitrary ward or agency boundaries. If land uses change along the street co-incident with the boundaries of a BIA or ward or generally perceived neighborhood boundary, than a streetscaping style change may be warranted. Where a longer street crosses a boundary between wards or BIA zones, a different streetscape may or may not be warranted.  Of course, streetscaping treatments need not change suddenly and totally, there can be transition zones where one style blends into the next one, by varying the paving texture, lighting fixtures, and other street furniture.

Somerset Street will be getting streetscaping treatment in 2010 from West Wellington over the Otrain, past the Plant Pool, to Preston. In 2011 the section up the hill through Chinatown will be done, as far as Booth. This raises obvious questions of what style to use: is the section west of the Otrain (in Hintonburg area, Kitchissipi Ward, West Wellie BIA) the same street as that one the east side of the Otrain hump (Dalhousie community, Preston BIA, Somerset Ward). And what of the street going up the hill into Chinatown, which is part of the Chinatown BIA? At Booth, the current plans/projects stop ... and the sidewalk styles and lampposts change to the current Chinatown design installed about 25 years ago.

For different communities, the boundaries and zones of influence change. This one kilometer of Somerset passes through 3 different BIAs, two wards, two community associations ... schoolchildren from both attend schools or recreational facilities scattered along Somerset and elsewhere. Should lampposts signify political or taxing boundaries? Or shopping zones? Or the current or former mix of business types? Should we celebrate* differences or patch them over?

*I strongly hope we can celebrate some meeting at the Preston/Somerset intersection with a special east-meets-west treatment. Piazza Marco Polo?

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